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Last month, the European Commission invited GBTA to share our views on the risks and opportunities involved with digitalizing EU visas. This is part of the EU’s effort to modernize its visa policy and overcome challenges for both public authorities and travelers.
GBTA welcomed this opportunity to provide input into the European Commission’s work and strongly supports the initiative. The EU should leverage new digital technologies to facilitate travel to the Schengen area – while upholding the highest safety standards.
Digitalizing the EU visa process can reduce what is currently a long visa application processing time by enabling business travelers to file their applications online and avoid having to make a personal appearance at consular services. A digital process would allow applicants to upload the required documents electronically, including their passport and picture. The e-visa would then be issued in an electronic form and sent by email to applicants creating a much more streamlined approach.
Many countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India have already successfully digitalized their visa application processes. GBTA suggests that the European Commission set-up an exchange of “best practices” with those countries to facilitate the implementation of EU-wide e-visas.
To ensure a smooth transition, GBTA highlighted that the EU should address the digital divide in Europe and ensure that a harmonized digital procedure is implemented across all EU Member States. It will be critical to protect data integrity and privacy and ensure that public authorities safeguard their systems against data breaches and cyberattacks.
GBTA remains convinced that the benefits of digitalizing visas outweigh the potential concerns – and calls on the European Commission to support Member States when rolling-out new digital capabilities.
GBTA is committed to working hand-in-hand with the European Commission to ensure that the digitalization of visas and visa processing becomes a reality, and making sure that the EU’s visa policy takes into account business travelers’ interests.
At the end of 2017, the European Commission launched a process to review the EU’s visa policy and adapt it to today’s challenges. In this context, the European Commission published its proposal to review the EU Visa Code this month meant to modernize and streamline the common European visa rules.
GBTA believes in sound and smart visa policies and earlier this year, GBTA submitted its position to the European Commission providing recommendations on the revision of the EU’s visa policy. GBTA strongly believes that the EU should ambitiously work towards achieving efficient visa policies that facilitate travel while upholding safety concerns. Business travel is the world’s largest employer and drives the success of every other industry. In this context, smart and balanced visa policies are essential to enable vetted business travelers to access European markets, thereby contributing to economic development and job creation.
GBTA is very pleased to see that most of its recommendations were taken into account in the recent Visa Code legislative proposal.
We are pleased to see that the European Commission is suggesting streamlining complex procedural requirements to obtain a Schengen visa. We are also pleased to see that Multiple Entry Visas’ procedures will be harmonized across the EU, as this will avoid certain EU countries from being more restrictive than others in delivering this specific type of visa.
However, we are concerned about the European Commission’s proposed increase of the visa application fees from €60 to €80. We call upon EU institutions to ensure fees are proportionate and enable the system to be self-sufficient financially, to avoid imposing additional tax burden on business travelers.
In our position paper, we had also called for online applications and the delivery of digital visas to be introduced as soon as possible, to simplify and accelerate the process for business travelers, while at the same time relieving consulates from administrative burden. We welcome the European Commission’s willingness to start discussions with the European Parliament and EU countries on this issue and hope these discussions will be quickly turned into concrete legislative outcomes.
GBTA remains ready to work hand-in-hand with European policymakers during the legislative process to ensure that its proposal to modernize the EU’s Visa Policy continues to take business travelers interests into account.
Earlier this week, GBTA and its European partner network congratulated the European Commission on the adoption of an aviation strategy last December and called for further engagement on issues of particular relevance to the business travel industry.
In a letter to Commissioners, the organizations identified three areas for further discussion:
The letter was signed by GBTA, the Danish Business Travel Association (DBTA), the Finnish Business Travel Association (FBTA), the German Business Travel Association (VDR), the Institute of Travel Management (ITM), the Netherlands Association of Travel Management (NATM), the Norwegian Business Travel Association (NBTA) and the Swedish Business Travel Association (SBTA).
These organizations represent over 7,000 members who use and provide business travel services in Europe and across the globe. View the full letter here.
At our record-breaking conference this November in Frankfurt, I took the stage with German Business Travel Association VDR’s Hans-Ingo Biehl to talk about advocacy efforts and policy issues in the EU that impact our industry.
GBTA is working in Europe, Latin America and North America to advance business travel through advocacy. That involves educating decision makers on the economic importance of business travel, advocating for policies that improve aspects of business travel and opposing efforts that hinder business travel.
With our united voices across the globe, we can seek to move forward a business travel agenda with smarter and safer passenger screening, taxation and fees that benefits the traveler, not overburden them, and infrastructure that meets the needs of the traveler.
Working with our partners in the EU, we identified policy issues to focus on that have the greatest impact on our industry including Schengen visas, ensuring a more competitive European aviation sector, shifting away from a one-size-fits-all approach to airport security guidelines, updating air traffic management to form a single European sky and ensuring traveler taxes are reinvested into transportation infrastructure, among others.
After the conference ended, I traveled to Brussels for our first round of engagement with key policymakers in the EU.
We met with key players in the Council of Member States, the European Parliament and the European Commission:
Mr Marinescu became the first European Member of Parliament that GBTA has met with.
We shared our messages on the importance of passenger efficiency and security, fair taxation and investments in transportation infrastructure. We also discussed the EU-U.S. Safe Harbor Agreement, aviation emissions and the sharing economy.
The policymakers were very receptive and we plan to continue engaging with them by sharing relevant data and information, so that we as an industry can help move the agenda forward. Advocacy does not happen overnight. Building relationships with these policymakers however, and understanding how we can help them, puts us in a position to make our collective industry voice heard.
We can only be effective if we are all engaged. This is just the beginning of our advocacy efforts in Europe, and with input from our partner associations and you, our members, GBTA can act as a voice across the globe for the business travel industry.